Updated November 2019
At Glasgow Science Centre (GSC), we have been focusing on children’s understanding of balance using an existing balance board exhibit and pre/post-interviews with the describe, predict, explain format. Our early studies with children indicated that children’s interaction with the balance board led to them using balance-type gestures in post-interaction interviews. In early 2019, we collected data from adult-child dyads invited into GSC, using the same protocol with slight adaptations: no transfer tasks, a pre-interview, inclusion of the Parents’ Attitudes about Learning Science (PALS) Survey and exploratory questions about enjoyment. This study showed us that the interaction with parents present is generally longer than when children are interacting with other children; and highlights the unique role of adults in scaffolding children’s interaction. We became interested in whether there might be differences in the way GSC facilitators might scaffold children’s interaction experiences, however, and so will also be running the same studies with facilitators instead of parents too. This will help to inform guidelines as to how to enhance facilitation at science exhibits. We are currently in the process of generating inter reliability analysis of data from adult-child dyads collected in March 2019. We are using this analysis to continue developing a video coding framework for future studies. In November 2019, we recruited parent/carer – child dyads from the GSC science mall floors and are in the process of recruiting preschool children from nurseries to engage in a study with GSC facilitators. We will try to determine if there is a difference in gesture pre during and post exhibit interaction with different adult facilitators.

Alongside this, although somewhat independent of M2L, we have been working on redesign of the existing balance board into a prototype of a digitised, simplified version as part of our Wellcome Trust Impact funding. The redesign is being informed by our current studies and analysis on M2L. We plan to run evaluation studies of the prototype in early 2020.

Glasgow Science Centre

Sharon Macnab
Susan Meikleham

University of Edinburgh

Andrew Manches
Zayba Ghazali-Mohammed
Alexia Revueltas Roux
Jamie Menzies

Updated September 2020
Researchers from University College London Institute of Education continue to work with educators/ practitioners at the Science Museum. Research takes place in The Garden – an interactive space created for children between 3 and 6 years of age. Children are invited to talk to us about their every-day experiences with water, before and after they visit The Garden’s interactive water experience. During the early months of 2020 LSM facilitated and engaged in research visits to the museum, and collaboratively worked through challenges we have faced with video-based data collection in this public space – given ethical issues of video-recorded data and consent. During this period we collected data with 24 children at LSM, using the full research design (pre-interview, interaction, post interview). Video recordings were taken of both interviews and interaction with purposefully designed objects at the water table. We were unable to collect PALS data for each of these participants due to family participation time issues, and unstable internet connection for using the iPad in the Garden area of the museum. Qualitative video analysis is in progress, starting with multimodal transcripts of the interview data and then examining how gestural communication of science ideas relates to action in the experience, to inform the degree to which, and ways in which gesture (conceptualization) is shaped by the particular sensorimotor interaction elicited by the different objects.   

Note that planned empirical work during this period was interrupted due to COVID; the museum has been closed. 

Science Museum

Karen Davies

University College London Knowledge Lab

Sara Price
Rhiannon Thomas
Minna Nygren

Updated September 2020
Researchers from University College London Institute of Education and Learning through Landscapes collaboratively developed a suite of body-based activities for young children, centered around the theme of air resistance for deployment in studies undertaken in outdoor setting in a London primary school. These activities were iteratively designed to allow us to explore how different body-based experiences might underpin children’s meaning making around ideas such as wind, speed, force and surface area. 

Formative evaluation studies involved 38 children aged 5-6 years across the iterations. Children were video-recorded as they interacted in pairs with the activities and during subsequent semi-structured interviews centered around these experiences, to explore how they used their bodies to communicate the experiences and ideas they had encountered, to inform adaptations of these experiences to help support children’s developing understanding, and reflect on the role of the digital in enhancing such an embodied experience. Multimodal transcripts have been generated for each of these video recordings. Analysis focused on how children were able to sense, observe, describe and develop ideas about the relationship between concepts such as wind speed, size and shape of materials, and pull/push forces, both during their interactions and later in conversation with researchers using both talk and gesture. Based on the findings from this research the team developed a set of guidelines for designing body-based activities for young children which meaningfully map the underlying science ideas to the activities which children undertake. They have also further elaborated our model of the role of gesture in young children’s science communication.

Both of these outputs are written up in publications (one published, winning best paper award, and one under review). The data collection phase for this branch of the project has now come to an end and the team have collaboratively translated this research into practice through developing training resources that have been integrated into Learning through Landscapes training day for early years practitioners. 

Learning through Landscapes

Alison Motion

University College London Knowledge Lab

Sara Price
Rhiannon Thomas
Minna Nygren

Updated November 2019
Research at The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science (Frost Science) in Miami focused on the River of Grass (ROG), an exhibit that provides children an opportunity to explore science content inspired by the Everglades. The exhibit consists of two water tables (outside) and a 270-degree, full body digital interactive (inside) that simulates a variety of elements of the Everglades, including the day-night cycle, animal behaviors, water flow, and plant life. Using their bodies, children can interact with the exhibit in a number of ways (e.g., touching trees, mimicking animals, placing logs to redirect water, chasing an otter, waving mosquitos away).

Our research focused on the extent to which kids engage in the exhibit with their body and gestures and how this engagement impacts the way they communicate about the relevant science concepts in a post-interview. Specifically, ROG encourages certain types of movements and actions in the digital space. Our research explores the extent to which this kind of guided movement can act as a foundation for science understanding and communication. Early analysis of our data suggests that kids are very exploratory in the exhibit, seeking out as much new content as possible. Additionally, parent involvement is essential for deep engagement with the exhibit to guide, demonstrate, and provide feedback. Initial analysis of interviews after visiting ROG suggest that children do leverage the movements they use in the exhibit when describing their experience and explaining the scientific content of the exhibit.

Frost Science

Judy Brown
Cheryl Lani Juárez

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

H Chad Lane
Ross Toedte
Jack Dempsey

Updated September 2020
Research at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCM) focuses on the Bug Sweeping exhibit, an experience designed to teach kids about the work of entomologists in crop production. Specifically, the exhibit (a full-body interactive experience using Microsoft Kinect) walks visitors through the sweeping of a soybean field (to collect insects), the analysis of the insects caught (to decide if there is a pest problem), and finally, a decision on potential mitigation steps (if there is a danger to crop production). Visitors simulate the sweeping of a net by making a figure 8 motion in the air—the simulation responds accordingly with feedback and results from the sample collected. Research focused on comparing the Bug Sweeping full-body interactive with a touchscreen version drawing on the same content and video assets. The comparison between these interactives aimed to establish how different interactive designs can impact a child’s understanding of and engagement with the scientific concepts in the interactive.

Our research investigated to what extent the prescribed movements in the interactive influence communication of the science concepts and whether they can serve as a physical referent when thinking about the collect-analyze-decide process. An analysis of our data suggested the type of exhibit (i.e., full-bodied using Kinect or non-embodied via the touchscreen) impacted the number and type of responses the children gave in the post-interview. One type of speech we focused on was “explanations” responses by the child describing how or why something occurred (i.e., “I caught bugs in the net because we need to see if there were caterpillars.”). The findings indicated that the usage of the full-bodied interactive was related to an increased number of explanations compared to the non-embodied version of Bug Sweeping. Additionally, every child in the study who used the full-bodied version of the interactive (22) explained their experience in the post-interview by gesturing the distinctive figure 8 motion in the air, demonstrating the prescribed action becomes a referent for later use. Analysis also suggested that parent involvement, through encouragement and feedback, is important for success in the exhibit. 

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Susan Foutz
Neil Davis

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

H Chad Lane
Ross Toedte
Jack Dempsey

Updated November 2019
Work at Sciencenter, in Ithaca, New York, investigates a dam building exhibit and to what extent movement of objects (small bricks) and a constructive activity (build a dam to stop flowing water) impact understanding of water pressure and ability to communicate about their experience. This study acts as a test of our emerging methodology to investigate embodied learning in a variety of informal museum settings. Our hypothesis is that the movement of the blocks and observation of water colliding with them will provide physical referents for explaining water pressure and engaging with civil engineering-related concepts connected to dam building. Also, children will use the exhibit with their parents or another adult, and so we will also collect data about how this support and encouragement impacts movement, understanding, and communication patterns in a post-interview.

Sciencenter

Michelle Kortenaar

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

H Chad Lane
Ross Toedte
Jack Dempsey

Contact

UK
Move2Learn
Moray House School of Education
St John's Land, Floor 4
Holyrood Road
Edinburgh
EH8 8AQ

Contact (UK)

US
Cheryl Lani Juarez
Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
1101 Biscayne Blvd
Miami
FL 33132

Contact (US)

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